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20 Years of Seraphic Fire: An Artist’s Perspective

What Makes the Seraphic Fire Experience Special?

For two decades, Seraphic Fire has enchanted its audiences with the musical talents of elite musicians. These singers and instrumentalists represent the soul of the ensemble and are the unwavering connection to the audience. They are eager to share their passion for the music; whether it’s a newly commissioned work, a little-known composer, or a new arrangement of a beloved favorite. Many of these musicians also feel very connected to their South Florida audiences through their own week-long homestays with host families, saying that they feel like they are sharing their music with close friends. Here are insights from artists, throughout the last 20 years, expressing what makes the Seraphic Fire experience special.

Reggie Mobley, countertenor

I joined Seraphic Fire at the end of the fourth season which was the first season Patrick decided to bring musicians in from out of town and out of state. He wanted good people who had worked together because he thought we would gel better as a group and make better music together, and he was right. Every time we came in, it was like family. In the beginning, we were ‘the little organization that could.’ There was nothing quite like us in the US; a professional ensemble of top-notch singers from all over the US coming together in a small setting for intense rehearsals, spending a lot of time together and performing incredible concerts. It was the beginning of that type of model. The magic that Patrick created was what everyone wanted to do. He would have his core group of six or nine of us and then he would bring in people who had a specific focus. Whatever we did—Gospel, Baroque, or 18th- and 19th-century music, German chorale—had an authenticity to it. Seraphic Fire was revolutionary in its development. To start in South Florida of all places. People don’t think about cultural innovation for classical music in the South, and certainly not in Miami. And Patrick drove home the fact that the music ensemble is integrated into the community, and it’s something to share and be proud of.

Sarah Stone, cello

The first time I played with Seraphic Fire— I think was 2015—we did an East Coast tour which was amazing. More recently,  I was part of a program that was all women; that was a great concert. Patrick was emulating Vivaldi, who had his choir of all women, including basses and tenors. Patrick also made sure that we also had an all-woman orchestra. It was the most relaxed and wonderful music-making; a highlight for me. Patrick is great at many things but specifically finding the right people for the right projects. The people who are in the room are exactly who should be there. Patrick trusts us to do something magical.

Katie Hyun, violin

During the pandemic everything was so uncertain; concerts were canceled and no sign of when it would start up. One of the things that really moved me was Seraphic Fire keeping in touch and reaching out from time to time just letting me know they were there. It was a really difficult and dark time for me, and it meant so much. Patrick works really hard to create a safe space for artists whenever we’re together; it makes a huge difference. The presence of a live audience now makes a world of difference in our performance. A part of us performing is the act of sharing. Seraphic Fire audiences have always been so welcoming and warm, really inspiring; so you really want to play well for them.

Blake Beckemeyer, tenor

I had always known that, at some point in my life, I wanted to sing with this group. It’s a room of the smartest singers I know and the smartest conductors with an amazing balance of collaboration and direction.  What’s incredibly unique is that Patrick and James point you in the direction of what they want you to do without dictating. It’s a special moment as an artist to feel like you have a contributory opportunity. It’s not just buttons and knobs that the conductor is moving around. You’re a human being that can bring something special and unique, even slightly different that results in something beautiful – and we all accomplish that task at the same moment in time.

Nola Richardson, soprano

I’ve had some really cool Seraphic Fire experiences that I haven’t encountered anywhere else, like doing a program with the Korean conductor E.J. Yoon, focusing on Russian repertoire with Elena Sharkova, and even Nordic repertoire! Patrick brings in interesting and talented guest conductors who have their own unique insight and style. Seraphic Fire offers challenging repertoire with a high level of attention to historic performance practice. This organization has been groundbreaking in raising the level of professional ensemble singing and creating this career of the professional chamber singer that does both solo and ensemble work, travels, and is capable of performing technically and musically challenging repertoire at a very high level.

Josh Cohen, Baroque trumpet

Patrick always chooses top players so the quality of music is always incredible. Donors and patrons are just waiting to see what he’s going to do next, always anticipating something amazing, whether it’s Renaissance, modern, or Baroque. He imports artists from all over the world – the best of the best.

Kathryn Mueller, soprano

Patrick encourages people to use their real voice, not to fit into a vocal box or particular sound, like some conductors do. He challenges us to explore different sounds and colors that we can make within our own scope of talents and the instrument we have. That just makes you feel like you are always learning new things, but singing in a healthy way. Patrick is a passionate and thrilling conductor and that translates and trickles down into the whole ensemble to give it energy and excitement. Just being in Miami, where so many cultures are coming together, that energy really gets infused into the music.

Luthien Brackett, mezzo-soprano

The group has become much more diverse over the years and has taken the issue of diversity very seriously which I think is wonderful. I’ve participated in our education program where we tour around to different public schools and it’s extraordinary—the kids are so receptive and enthusiastic. But I also love to see that the group has evolved to do more to train up-and-coming professional singers. It’s great that Seraphic Fire, one of the country’s preeminent professional choirs takes the lead in training the next generation of professional ensemble singers.

I’ve spoken to many, many groups in the US and abroad, and hands down, Seraphic Fire was the most exemplary organization in taking care of artists during the pandemic. It was an incredibly scary time. Imagine whether you are an instrumentalist or a singer and you can’t do the things you are trained to do. You have an identity crisis – Who am I? and What can I do? I will always be grateful to Seraphic Fire. Clearly, it was a strong priority for the organization to take care of its artists during the pandemic.